Growing up, I thought that church was a very serious, solemn and perhaps somewhat scary place. I thought that you should walk in quietly, preferably with eyes cast down, sit in your assigned place (oh those hard, uncomfortable wooden pews!) (and don’t you dare sit in someone else’s “personal” pew). To me, church was a bit like Simon Says – you know – stand, kneel, sit, sing and pray as directed by the Pastor. If you heard any snoring, it may have been me!! After the service, everyone files passed the Pastor, maybe shake his hand, mumble a word or two – and then walk as quickly as you can to the car so that you can get out of the parking lot before anybody else! Does this ring any bells?
I think if I was to ask a number of people what they thought church should be like, I would probably get a wide variety of answers. And I certainly have my own opinion of how I want “my” church to function. But, is “my” way the right way? Is there only one way to have church? I am really going to throw a monkey wrench into this by saying both “yes” and “no”.
I do believe that God, in His Word, has given us some guidelines and examples. As I said in my previous blog, church is not a building but a gathering of people. Jesus held “church” in many varied locations: on a hilltop, in a market, on the seashore, on the Temple steps, in synagogues, in people’s homes and even at a wedding and a funeral! The first century church often met in people’s homes. It seems obvious that the location and the decor are not what makes a church.
In the Bible, we also read that a wide variety of people made up the “church”: families, widows, orphans, rich, poor, honourable and dishonourable, popular and lonely, young and old, male and female, educated and illiterate, loved and unloved. Jesus, the greatest equalizer of all times, drew people from every walk of life to himself through his love. This fact alone should be a huge clue on how we are to regard one another. There is no place for prejudice, bigotry, sexism, criticism or “holier than thou” attitude in God’s church.
I do not wish to go too deeply into church organization/administration in this post, but God’s Word does tell us about teachers/preachers/pastors (each one is slightly different), bishops, elders, and deacons. God tells us the qualifications and the responsibilities of these positions. God also tells us that we are to respect those who are in positions of leadership, however, we are not supposed to worship them! Our worship must be reserved for our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and our Heavenly Father, the Almighty God.
How many people make up a church? Well, my previous post defined a “church” as a gathering together of people whom God has “called out” from sin and darkness into the light of Jesus Christ. A church is made up of people who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have not found anywhere in the Bible that mentions that there must be a certain number of people to make up a church. in fact, Jesus said the following:
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are come together in my name, there am I among them.
To me, that means that if I stand on the street, meet for coffee or tea, call, text or even email to chat with a brother or sister in Christ, and ask how they and/or their family are doing, share Godly words of encouragement and support, pray for them and share how God is working in my life, then I am having “church”.
God’s church is supposed to be a loving family, a family that many of us are missing. It is a place that we should feel welcomed, appreciated, safe, and above all, loved. Church should be a place where we are nurtured, so that we can grow into the fullness of who God created us to be.
“Church” should be a place where we can be fed spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. We should come away from the experience feeling encouraged, uplifted and hopeful. “Church” should equip us to go out into this difficult world with peace, joy and hope. “Church” should be a beacon of light, hope and love to those who are lost and hurting.
If the “church” functioned the way God desires, then people would be drawn to it; you would want to go rather than feeling like you have to go. Church would be a blessing, not a burden!
While I don’t attend a church “building” every Sunday, I do enjoy attending a wide variety of “Church” activities every week. Like a snail carries his home around with him, I prefer to think that I carry my “Church” with me everywhere I go – and I don’t have to sit on hard wooden benches and I don’t snore! (ok – maybe I snore a bit at night!)
While I think that God does have certain expectations of how a church should function – the accurate teaching of His Word, combined with love, kindness, humility and forgiveness – I also believe that God allows for the “shape” or form of any one church to be as individual as the type of people who make up that particular church body. Jesus chose 12 apostles that had different personalities, abilities, ways of observing, learning, understanding, recording and teaching. In the same manner, God’s church is made up of a wide variety of people and personalities. Some people enjoy, and may, in fact, need a more structured, formal presentation. My father is Roman Catholic, and he has told me that he finds great comfort in the formal, traditional format of Mass. I, on the other hand, prefer something less formal and structured. Some people prefer the old, traditional hymns or gospel choruses. While I do enjoy some of the traditional pieces, I am a rock’n’roll girl at heart so I enjoy the more upbeat, contemporary music. Some people enjoy listening to well-rehearsed sermons full of fancy words; I prefer a down-to-earth practical teaching. In all these things, style is not what is most important to God, it is the content. God wants His Word to be taught by “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” 2Tim. 2:15. God wants us to know of His great love for us and His plan to bring us back into a right relationship with Him through our believing in the atoning sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.
If you are not enjoying your “Church”, if it is not feeding you in body, mind and spirit, then think about how you could make some positive suggestions and/or changes. If change is not welcomed in your “Church”, prayerfully consider looking for another “Church” family. It is of no value to stay where you are feeling frustrated, bored, and stagnant; this can lead to strife and bitterness, which are are tools of the enemy. Find someplace where you can flourish in the love and the knowledge of our God.
Eph 4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouth, but only what is good for giving necessary teaching, and for grace to those who give ear.
Eph 4:30 And do not give grief to the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were marked for the day of salvation.
Eph 4:31 Let all bitter, sharp and angry feeling, and noise, and evil words, be put away from you, with all unkind acts;
Eph 4:32 And be kind to one another, full of pity, having forgiveness for one another, even as God in Christ had forgiveness for you.